Bob Gruen is one of the most well-known and respected photographers in rock and roll. From John Lennon to Johnny Rotten, Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones, Elvis to Madonna, Bob Dylan to Bob Marley, Tina Turner to Debbie Harry, he has chronicled the music scene for over 40 years in photographs that have gained worldwide recognition.

But on September 11, 2001, his camera captured some very different images. Here, in words and pictures, Bob shares his memories from 20 years ago of the World Trade Center and 9/11.

I would see the Twin Towers when I walked out of my home and often took pictures of them reflecting the light and looking different every day. I’ve put some of my favorite photos of the World Trade Center on the left side and my pictures from 9/11 on the right.

I was going to get my car tuned in New Jersey and saw one of the World Trade Center’s towers on fire. I pulled off the road into Liberty State Park, sat on a bench there and then saw a plane fly low over the harbor and crash into the other tower. It was the worst thing I have ever seen. It broke the fabric of reality and has changed the way we live. Since then I’ve been thinking of the words of Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I think we must go forward and not let them stop us. We must tell our leaders to work for peace on Earth.

Photo taken from the Turnpike on the way home from a rock show in New Jersey in 1975.
Photo from the same highway on Sept 11, 2001.
Sunset reflects on the Twin Towers.
The south tower explodes after the plane flew into it. A few minutes later a policeman closed the park and I headed home.
The view at dawn from my apartment.
When I reached Jersey City, the tunnel to NY was closed so I parked and walked to the waterfront. By the time I got there, the south tower had fallen. A cop told me to move to the next street over.
New York City from the Staten Island ferry.
By the time I had gone around the block, the north tower had fallen.

A late afternoon shot from my roof.
Ferry boats started arriving, bringing victims from the city.
The towers had an amazing ability to reflect the light.
Many people came to help.
Dawn on West Street in the 1970s.
These men had their silk ties wrapped around their injured feet.
Another afternoon shot from my roof.
Our local firehouse in the Village lost many members.
The NY skyline from the Lower East Side.
It was heartbreaking for weeks afterwards to see the homemade missing persons signs all over the city.
This 2001 picture of the Trade Center is from a boat on the Hudson River. You can see the full moon between the towers.
The day after the attack, I saw this man marching down Fifth Avenue with his flag. I realized many people would want to go to war and it made me very sad.

Photos and Words by Bob Gruen.

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  1. Thanks. Sent to my now SF
    young cousin; was sound
    engineer with John Lennon
    at the Hit Factory
    “You never know when Allah will take you.”

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